15. Fall of Rhudaur
Khamul reached Dol Guldur a few days later. It was an exceptionally gloomy day, she noticed as she pulled her hood over her face to keep out the rain.
"So, you decided to come," Sauron said as she walked into the throne room.
"Yes, I did," Khamul said. Only because Morion ordered me to.
"Anything of interest in Angmar?"
"No," Khamul said.
"Anything of interest on the road?"
Khamul's eyes narrowed. Did he know about the old man? No, of course not. Wizard Sauron may be, but not a mind-reader. And Khamul saw no reason to mention the man to him. There was something peculiar about that old man. He reeked of power, nearly as much as Sauron. A battle between the two (and a battle there surely must be between two such conniving creatures) could only help Khamul. Perhaps they would kill each other, leaving her free to set up her own kingdom.
"Well?" Sauron asked.
"No," Khamul answered hastily, realizing she had left the question hanging. "Morion wants to know when we should strike at Rhudaur."
Sauron considered this. "Soon," he said. "Before they find us out." He paused, considering the idea. "Who rules in Rhudaur?" he asked.
"I don't know," Khamul said.
Sauron sighed. "You have been away too long, Khamul," he said. "You think like an elf. Years are hours, and decades mere days."
Khamul scowled at the rebuke, but kept silent.
"It was a rhetorical question anyway," Sauron said. "The king of Rhudaur is a decrepit old man nearly a hundred and seventy-five. He is the last descendent of Earendur, last king of Arnor. When he dies, the line of the Dunedain will die out."
"Completely?" Khamul asked hopefully.
"In Rhudaur, completely," Sauron said. "It will continue in Cardolan and Arthedain, but one of the three kingdoms will have fallen."
"It seems that if the king were to die, the kingdom would fall quite quickly," Khamul said. "I do believe a large portion of the population is loyal to us."
"Why, I do believe you are correct," Sauron said with a dark smile. "Kill the king, Khamul."
"With pleasure," Khamul said. Another of Isildur's heirs dead, she thought. I wonder if I'll be able to deal the deathblow to the last one.
"Where is the king? I have not seen him lately," a guard commented as he ran into one of his fellows.
"I believe he has, once again, fallen asleep in the throne room," the other guard said.
"He is getting old."
"Indeed. And yet he has no heir. I fear that young prince in Arthedain will take it as an excuse to annex our kingdom."
The guards scowled, thinking of Arthedain. "Arrogant bastards," one said, spitting. "Who rules there now? Malvegil?"
"Barely. He is close to death, they say."
"I hope he hangs on a little longer. I like not the look of his son."
"It is not our fault the blood of Numenor runs thin. They like the western lands better, that is all."
"Ah!" the first guard exclaimed, spotting another comrade walking down the hall. "I see you come from the throne room, friend! Is the king there?"
The guard shrugged. "Sort of," they said.
"Eh? What mean you, friend?"
"Regrettably," the guard said, "I am not your friend."
There was a flash of steel and the first guard fell, his companion following him seconds later.
Grinning, Khamul threw off her disguise. Three dead, and no commotion. What a perfect assassination. Now all she had to do was get back to Morion and tell him that Rhudaur was ready for a puppet king; the strings to be pulled by Angmar, of course.
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